namaste, fatty

As I leaned over the railing, my coworker took a sidelong glance at my midsection. “Dave, you’re looking fatter and fatter every day,” he said.

My self-esteem plummeted. But I’ve been working out! But I’ve been eating salads! But I’ve been —

Wait. What???

Here’s another thing about Indian culture: one’s weight is not a sensitive issue. “You need to lose weight,” I remember one coworker, a twenty-something male, telling a twenty-something female. Six of us had been sitting around chatting – five guys and her. When the pronouncement about her weight was made, all the other guys turned, evaluated her body, and nodded in agreement.

She wasn’t shocked. She wasn’t upset. *I* couldn’t believe what I’d just heard, but I was the only one.

If the subject comes up in the US, it’s only in the context of positive reassurance. (“No… you look great!”) Here, on the other hand – well, when I told another coworker how shocked I’d been by the comment about my gut, this coworker just laughed. “Oh, he’s only saying that because I told him a few days ago that his belly had gotten huge.”


Also, as I was writing this, I was reminded once again that guy-on-guy ambush massages (think President Bush coming up behind Chancellor Merkel) are also perfectly acceptable here. Thanks, buddy. Felt great.


17 responses to “namaste, fatty

  1. In India if you are overweight then everyone see you like you came from some unknown planet

  2. Quirky Indian

    Dave, how long have you been here? We love uncomfortably personal conversations!

    How old are you? What does your apartment cost? How many children do you have? Do you intend having more children? What do your wife’s parents do? Oh, she isn’t you wife? You mean you are not married? Will you get married? But seriously, what do her parents do? Is there a history of diabetes in your family? You should watch your weight you know. Why do you have such thin hair? Does baldness run in your family?

    I’m sure you get the gist!

    Quirky Indian

  3. jenny and dave

    Quirky Indian -You got a LOL out of me on that comment. =)

  4. No comment or questions is out of bounds…. I wud like to add So how do u make? OMG that is not a lot, how do u guys manage… to Quirky Indian’s list.

  5. When I was a kid, my family spent a summer in Rome on a house exchange. Some Roman family got our apartment in Manhattan, our car, our lifestyle for a summer–and we got their Rome apartment along with their personal cook/housekeeper. She was an African woman with the darkest skin I’d ever seen and weird tattoos on her face that, it was explained to me later, were received at a tribal ritual.

    One day over dinner, with the entire family seated, she announces to my mother, “I wish I were like you. Short and fat.”

    She meant it in the nicest possible way–that my mother was well fed and obviously never dealt much with hunger in her life. But it was unfathomable to us that someone, regardless of their culture, could consider that a compliment.

    It’s still somewhat of an ongoing joke in my family, though I’m fairly sure my mother only pretends to laugh.

  6. Indians have certainly a way of being brutally honest. On visits to India, my relatives certainly don’t hold back…..

  7. we moved from Brooklyn to Merida, Mexico about 2 years ago. You guys are way intrepid, lovely site.

  8. Post more dammit!?
    People stuck in their boring lives in the States are living vicariously through you!
    Namaste…slightly balding chubby white guy!
    Er, kidding!

  9. That’s just the delhi style Dave. You’ll get used to it. I’ve got a cousin who’s constantly surprised and sometimes annoyed by the deluge of thank yous and hi how are yous she gets from americans (she just moved here from New Delhi). Its not even a brutally honest thing, I’d say its more like an abbot and costello back and forth banter that comes from years of living in Delhi. We’re not being rude.
    Think Alec Baldwin and Mahky Mahk in The Depahted but less vulgar.
    Massages? Better prepare your back for spine jarring slaps from big punjabi dudes. Living in Delhi = Frequent violation of your territorial bubble.

  10. What a great post! Having moved to Nicaragua in January, both my husband and I have had many similar experiences. During our first week here, both women in the office told us that we looked much fatter than the photos they had seen of us. My jaw nearly fell to the ground and I was close to tears, having skirted around the issue of weight for 30 years in the States. However, after a week or two here in San Juan, I realized that people are simply more straightforward and say what they think and feel – something I have come to find quite refreshing. Cheers to being honest, I suppose!

  11. We Indians connect easily. How much do you earn is a common question as also is when did you get your teeth fixed. It’s not considered impolite. In fact political correctness overall has reached only the snooty upper classes in India.
    In any case being plump is considered beautiful in India. Well, not in the snooty crowd.

  12. The prevalence of high BP, diabetes and cardiac problems would make you think people take their weight – esp central spread – seriously. Not until an ‘event’ happens, of course… 🙂 Then we all suddenly turn very chaste.

  13. I’m from Delhi but living in Texas now. I think the no-holds-barred style of conversation in India comes across as crude to people but it can be adapted-to with the realization that (a) Indians have different notions of privacy and tendency of sharing everything – good or bad (you’ll see that everyone is out of their home on all the festivals in India, opposite of what you see in the US) and people will give you a helping hand too when you least expect it. (b) privacy is not coveted in India, rather sometimes perceived as a punishment rather than a privilege (when I was in college the favorite way of hazing was social ostracism – no one would talk or share anything with you) (c) there are some benefits to this share-all style: people in India have very low incidence of psychological depression since they don’t/can’t keep anything to themselves. Of course, the rat race is changing that but the kinds of stress are different.

  14. Indians are not polite (thank god for that!).

    I lived in London for 2 years and was suffocated by the fake politeness.

    And thank god! we are not Americans. The lady who got commented on, in the U.S would have slaped a sexual haressment case on the male and won it as well! How ridiculous is that. That’s their idea of free expression

    An honest, open-minded society any day comparatively!

  15. Interesting. An Indian once asked me how much I was getting paid and I was shocked by the question. When I tried to politely skirt around the issue, she asked me again and this time more directly like this:
    No! I meant how much are they paying you?!
    It was very strange to say the least. I think she just wanted to make sure that she was not being under paid relative to everyone else, but eekkk!

  16. That means you feel really satisfied with your life 🙂

  17. maybe vish is unaware of the increasing rates of anorexia and bulimia among young girls, the high rates of suicide and depression in many parts of India..the only difference is that in India, while it is true that we share perhaps too much of our private lives with our family and friends, psychiatric illness is perhaps associated with a greater taboo than sexually transmitted disease…explaining our unfortunate and often brutal honesty away by saying it contributes to a more open environment is ignoring the fact that it contributes to a multitude of social pressures, particularly on Indian women!

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